Monday, January 14, 2019

Writing from a Woman's POV...What Was I Thinking?

I loved the discussions by authors who visualize which actors and actresses would portray their characters if their books are turned into movies.  I have some thoughts on that which I will share a little later in this blog.

The reason why writers have strong opinions on this is our characters are very real to us.  What sometimes slides by us is that our characters are also very real (or should be) to our readers as well.
Both Random Road and Darkness Lane are written from the first-person viewpoint of Geneva Chase…a woman.  I’m male, I have both an X and a Y chromosome.

“Really, you write as a woman?” I’m often asked. “What the hell were you thinking?”

First, a little about Ms. Chase.  She’s blonde, tall (five-ten), athletic, blue eyes, attractive, forty years old, and a snarky smart ass.  Geneva is a reporter for her hometown newspaper in Sheffield, Connecticut, a bedroom community outside of New York City. As the first book opens, she’s seeing a married man, has been recently arrested for hitting a cop, has been married three times, and she drinks too much.

Geneva Chase is a hot mess.  Likable and smart as hell, but still a hot mess.

That doesn’t answer the question, “What the hell were you thinking?”

I started writing Random Road as an experiment.  One chapter I’d write from the male protagonist’s POV and the next chapter I’d write as Geneva Chase.  About ten chapters into the book, I discovered I was having much more fun writing as Genie.  Through her eyes, I could view the world as a cynical journalist.  Through her voice, I could make snarky, sarcastic observations.  I could say things I would never say out loud in real life. Simply put…she was fun!

A writer needs to be a keen observer of the world around him or her.  Writing as a woman, I needed to study how someone like Genie would dress, what kind of jewelry she’d wear, how she would speak and move.  I know more about women’s shoes, cosmetics, and fragrances than I ever wanted to.

A word to the wise, it’s a fine line between being extremely observant and being really creepy.

Now, back to your characters being real.  My editor, publisher, and agent are all female (as is my wife, of course) and none of them are afraid to call me out when Geneva isn’t ringing true.

But I’ve gotten some interesting comments from readers about Geneva.  I’ve had some women tell me how much they identify with her.  I take that as a genuine compliment.

I’ve had some men tell me how much they like the character and I actually had one guy tell me that he’s fallen in love with her.  That made me a little uncomfortable.

Then there was the time in Phoenix, at a mystery conference, I was on a panel called “Unconventional Women”.  Yes, I was the only dude on the stage.

When I write the character Geneva Chase, I'm not thinking about any actresses.  I have a good friend of mine in my head.  She's tall, athletic, beautiful and she's a genuine smart ass.  I worked with her for years at the last newspaper I was at.  She knows who she is.

So back to whom I’d like to see portray Geneva Chase.  I’m partial to Reese Witherspoon.  Maybe  Naomi Watts.   Two completely different actresses, but I think they’d do Genie proud.  Let me know if you have any suggestions.  I'd love to hear who you think could be Geneva Chase.

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